While there are many foundational questions about morality and virtue, there are three questions we have addressed over and over and one we have not looked at. I will remind you of the three questions. I will give you three reasons for the second question. At the end of the post, I’ll mention the fourth question and dive in to it tomorrow.
1|| What does it mean to be good (or bad)?
This is the question of the nature of goodness and badness. WHAT defines and describes good and bad, right and wrong? What is beautiful or evil, true or false?
2|| Why does goodness (or badness) matter?
This question assumes morality matters, but WHY does it matter? You cannot give the “mom” answer or the “dad” answer, “Because I said so.” This is one where I like to use the Bible text, “Come let us reason together, says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18). And Isaiah 1:16-17 says, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right.” It speaks especially of justice. And then Isaiah 1:18 continues with the cleansing, saving work of God. Read Isaiah 1. It is a marvelous chapter, loaded with spiritual wisdom.
3|| How do I/we become good and avoid evil?
This is the HOW question. It is the transformation question. It is the developmental question. It is the question I think about all the time. It is the question that haunts me every time I am not good. It is the urgency that drives me every time I am reminded of just HOW MUCH this matters.
On Sunday, February 2, I started the conversation on this question. On Sunday, February 9, Becky and I will do a 90-minute workshop where we can take a much deeper dive into HOW goodness grows in us. I will have another post (or two) on this theme this week.
Then, every week for the rest of the series, we will take ONE VIRTUE and talk about what it is, why it matters, and how that virtue can grow in your life.
Back to the SECOND question: Why does morality matter?
Peter Kreeft says there are three reasons why it matters. I recently read the prophet Amos, one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. All three reasons were right there in Amos 5:14-15.
Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Why does morality matter according to Peter Kreeft . . . ?
Reason 1: Because God matters.
God is love and the chief end in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We glorify God and enjoy him most as we become like God is. God’s great mission is to create and raise daughters and sons who have his own nature. As we become more and more like Jesus, as we choose to love God with all our hearts, God’s great mission to reclaim humanity advances and God is honored.
Reason 2: To be a healthy human being.
And this one has already been mentioned. True human nature is the image of God in us. We are untrue to our very humanity when we are not good, not kind, not loving, not just, not honest, not fair, and we are most true to our human nature when we are. It is good to be good. It is right to do right. It is this that makes us fully human and fully alive. The other things slowly kill us.
Reason 3: To survive.
Humanity cannot survive if we hate one another. We can’t survive if we steal, cheat, lie, deceive, mistreat, and abuse one another. We cannot survive if we are racist and sexist. We must love one another or we will die (Auden, in his poem, September 1, 1939). Humanity can’t survive. Friendships can’t survive. Marriages can’t survive. Families can’t survive. Churches can’t survive. A nation cannot survive if the people in those places do not love one another.
For your sake and for the sake of those you love, it is good to be good—good for you and good for them. It is bad to be bad—bad for you and bad for them.
It is all right there in those two short verses in Amos. It is all throughout the Bible. It is in the 10 Commandments. It is in the Beatitudes of Jesus. It is in the Great Commandment. And with a little bit of clear, common sense it is there for all to see.
4|| Who gets to decide or determine what is good and bad?
To talk about WHO is to talk about the source, the authority. Who is qualified and what makes them qualified?
This is not a question we are exploring on Sunday mornings, so you may find tomorrow’s post helpful.